Tax on Instant Bingo? Bingo!

December 28, 1993

Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall wants a tax on instant bingo, and the General Assembly ought to give it to him.

Frankly, we've never understood why instant bingo in Anne Arundel is tax-free when not-so-instant bingo is subject to the local amusement tax. The attorney general's office says the scratch-off bingo cards are not a "game," that they're more like lottery tickets, which are not subject to the amusement tax.

But there's a big difference between Arundel's instant bingo cards and lottery tickets. Lottery tickets are available at convenience stores, but you can't buy an instant bingo card unless you go to a for-profit bingo parlor in Anne Arundel County, where bingo is played.

Also, the corner 7-Eleven does not qualify as an amusement center, but a bingo parlor in Arundel certainly does. It makes sense that if you're patronizing an amusement facility -- whether you're playing regular bingo or scratching off the numbers on an instant card -- that you should pay an amusement tax.

Some Arundel lawmakers are worried about how their county would collect such a tax, but it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure that one out. The tax should be collected at the point of sale, just like a sales tax.

The bingo tax would add several hundred thousand dollars to county coffers annually, but that's not the main point. A tax ought to be applied equitably. Instant bingo and regular bingo are both games, and you have to go to the same game hall to play them. If one is taxed, so should the other.

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CHEERS FOR SCROOGE: That old Scrooge, Anne Arundel Sheriff Robert Pepersack, is at it again, spoiling Christmas for deadbeat parents who haven't been making child support payments.

Good for him. So far, "Operation Scrooge II" has rounded up 14 deadbeats who must post bond or pay $300 cash, to be turned over to their children.

Later, a judge could order them to participate in a county program that puts them to work and provides job training, with half of their salaries going to pay off their child support debt. It's a sensible, practical program that is fair to both kids and parents.

What the sheriff is doing is a service to children. Maybe they should dub it "Operation Santa."

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